In a lot of ways “Through Hardships to the Stars” is the antonym to Jørgen Haugen Sørensen’s “Crowding at the Gate of Stupidity”, which is on view in the main gallery. Natasha Kissell’s works were created under the same dire circumstances as Haugen’s, and the situation in Great Britain has been just as bleak as in Italy. But where Haugen looks for meaning and insight in a direct confrontation with the harsh reality of things, Kissell seeks refuge in her family, nature, the English countryside, and the night sky.
"Through Hardships to the Stars" is a poetic excursion into the private dream world of the South African painter. Familiar landscapes are lined by exotic mountain ranges, flowers shoot up and burst out of the picture plane, and the perspective is distorted ever so slightly, which makes the paintings appear almost surreal. As always, Kissell incorporates iconic pieces of architecture in her works, but this time something has happened to the houses: Suddenly, a warm light beams from every window, door and crack, and even though we are meant to be standing in the middle of nature, the world open to us, you also get a feeling that within all these houses, worlds we can never access are hidden. For this reason, the artworks themselves contain a peculiar inner tension that is exemplary to Kissell’s oeuvre.
Another clear tendency in Natasha Kissell’s recent works is the emergence of tiny figures in the landscape. This is the artist’s own family, her children, with whom she travelled the English countryside during the Covid-19 lockdowns in an attempt to escape the postapocalyptic scenes of the big cities. In this sense, the paintings act as a double testimony of the painter’s escape from the pandemic: They are an expression of Kissell’s longing for a sorrowless ideal world, and at the same time – in a more concrete sense – they are depictions of a very real escape out into the great outdoors. The underlying message is unmistakable: The world is still out there, nature perseveres. And isn’t that quite comforting after all?